The Journey of a Researcher: Becoming Confident and Critical

by | Aug 31, 2020 | News

Alumni Interview Series spotlight features Krisztián Jójárt, 2018 Andrássy National Security Fellow

Krisztián Jójárt

Prior to arriving to Washington in 2018, Krisztián has been an external fellow at the Center for Strategic and Defense Studies in Budapest where his research has covered the Russian military reform, contemporary Russian military thinking, and Russia’s ongoing wars in Ukraine and Syria. He also holds an M.A. degree in security and defense policy and has pursued studies in international relations at Corvinus University of Budapest.  During his six-month research, Krisztián provided a thorough analysis of Russia’s asymmetric warfare strategy based on the critical evaluation of the writings of prominent Russian military thinkers.

We interviewed Krisztián recently to see where his path has taken him since his time on the HIF Fellowship.

Krisztián, where are you now on your career path?

I am currently working with the Budapest-based Institute for Strategic and Defense Studies (SVKI) as an external research fellow, where I focus on Russian strategic thinking and foreign policy. I would say I am still at the beginning of my research career. As far as my studies are concerned, I am pursuing my Ph.D. in Military Studies and if all goes well I will submit my doctorate thesis two years from now. In the meantime, the partial lockdown due to COVID-19 helped me move forward with the writing of my second master’s thesis in International Relations and prepare for my final exams. I should have done it long before, but better late than never…

Krisztián Jójárt

Which achievement are you most proud of since we met?

It is hard to highlight one. I think the typical career path of a researcher is about gradual development and continuous learning, paved without very visible milestones except for academic degrees. Still, if I have to name one specific achievement, I can recall a conference in Kiev from last year where I presented my thoughts about Russian military thinking. After my presentation, a senior Ukrainian military officer congratulated me admitting that he would not have thought that he will hear anything new about Russian military thinking from a Hungarian expert. I have to admit, that was really flattering.

How did your experience with HIF in the US help you reach your goals?

HIF’s Andrássy Fellowship was the best opportunity I have ever got. Thanks to that, I had the chance to meet and talk to experts whose work I knew already and admired a lot. It was truly a relief when it turned out that it is only their human qualities that outshine their professional expertise. They helped me a lot by sharing their knowledge, advice, and taking me seriously. I am very grateful to them and all those I got to know during my journey.

What struggles did you have to overcome to move closer to your goals?

I think the main challenge for everyone who chooses an academic career is to resist the temptation of money and a quick and straightforward career offered by the private sector. Not everyone can afford the luxury of studying and improving oneself for years. I wouldn’t have either if it was not for my family that supported me both financially and morally. I think it requires a lot of understanding and patience not only on behalf of all those who choose this career path but also on behalf of their families. This is also one reason why programs like the Andrássy Fellowship are so important.

What impact did your US experience have on your overall journey?

“My experience in the United States helped me to become more confident in myself, and also to be more critical. I learned a lot during the 6 months about the work of Washington think tanks. I learned that an analysis does not only have to be written but also has to be sold. Writing for American think tanks requires a very different approach than what usually researchers in Europe got used to. Both approaches have their pros and cons. It must be noted however that the big think tanks in Washington do not necessarily produce better analyses than their smaller European counterparts, including the studies of my excellent colleagues and mentors with the Institute for Strategic and Defense Studies.”

What are your plans for the future?

The next big step for me is to write my Ph.D. thesis. Encouraged by the very positive experience I gained from my Andrássy Fellowship I am continuously applying for different fellowship programs that fit my research topic. My goal is to learn and travel as much as I can in the remaining two years of my Ph.D. program (and possibly beyond). I like to write analyses so I will likely stay in the academic world in the foreseeable future.

What words of advice do you have for future recruits?

I highly encourage everyone to live with the opportunity HIF’s fellowship programs offer. If you are already selected for a given program, prepare well, and choose your research topic before the travel. Once you are there, be brave, and dare to ask questions!

What books are currently on your reading list?

Fortunately, there is a lot to read about Russia. This is also a curse as my reading list is always full of books related to Russia. I would love to read novels and the many unread classical and contemporary masterpieces of the Hungarian and world literature. As far as the former is concerned, I have Mark Galeotti’s “The Vory” and “Putin’s People” from Catherine Belton on my bookshelf. As far as the latter is concerned, I would like to finish a book by Viktor Pelevin which my girlfriend gifted me a year ago. It is in Russian, so it takes time for me to digest. I put aside to read something else many times already as an example of taking the path of least resistance. Now it is time to finally finish it.


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